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The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Bucket List


Bucket List

Are you living the life you want to live?

7 months ago I was sitting on the beach in Thaliand with my husband gearing up to play with a local baby elephant. Suddenly my husband got an alert on his phone. He was silent for a few minutes while peering intently at the screen. Worried something might be wrong, I asked him, “What’s going on? Everything ok?” He laughed and said, “Do you want to go to Dubai?”

Amazingly, Etihad Air (the official airline of United Arab Emirates) had posted an error in their fare pricing. Instead of a $2,140 round-trip ticket price, someone had forgotten the “4” and posted a $210 round-trip airfare! This is a ridiculous price for getting across the world. We had mere moments to jump on it before the error was corrected by the system. I had never been to Dubai or even that part of the world, but my husband and I had vowed to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and take as many adventure trips as we can before having kids. Specifically, we have agreed to live a regret-free life.

I took a deep breath and went with my gut. “Let’s book it.”

5 months later we had arrived in the magical city that is Dubai:

Jumeirah, Dubai, UAE

We spent seven days exploring the United Arab Emirates and checking off multiple bucket list items. We trekked through the desert:

bucket list

We went to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa:

Burj Khalifa view

We visited beautiful mosques in Abu Dhabi, the Shiekh Zayed Grand Mosque:

Shiekh Zayed Grand Mosque

And, of course, we sandboarded:

sandboarding, bucket list

Now it’s your turn.

What are you waiting for?

I want to help you create your bucket list and start executing the amazing items you have been dying to try.

Bucket List: A list of all the things you want to try, goals you want to achieve and life experiences you want to have before you die.

Challenge Accepted: I’m ready to create my bucket list @vvanedwards! click to tweet   

I think everyone should have a Bucket List or a “To Experience” list. Here’s why:

  • Bucket lists make you stop and think what you actually want to experience in this lifetime.
  • Bucket lists remind you that life is short and we should live it to its fullest.
  • Bucket lists increase our happiness because they give us both hope and curiosity (2 essential ingredients for happiness).

Step 1: Dreamstorm

The first thing you can do to create your bucket list is to dreamstorm–this is a combination of dreaming and brainstorming. Take out a piece of paper or open a new document and set aside at least 15 minutes to put all of your ideas into writing. Here’s the key:

Remove all limits.

The most important part of dreamstorming is allowing your mind to be as free as possible. Step One is all about putting down every. single. idea. that pops into your head. It’s not crazy, it’s not impossible, it’s not silly–just put it down! You are not allowed to edit for feasibility or possibility in dreamstorming. When you let your brain and mind free, it’s amazing what ideas will come out. Ready? Go!

Step 2: Get Inspiration

Sometimes our brains can’t even imagine half of the fun things that we could do. Getting inspiration for your bucket list makes it more complete. This step is especially important if you had trouble dreamstorming or coming up with ideas in Step #1. Here is my bucket list. Maybe it will give you some ideas for your own:

  1. Go to a drive-in movie
  2. Learn to play the banjo
  3. Go to Harry Potter World
  4. Rent a House Boat with friends
  5. Be a redhead
  6. Learn to drive stick shift
  7. Make my own perfume
  8. Visit every continent
  9. Make homemade pasta
  10. Take harp lessons
  11. Go to a nude beach (and be nude)
  12. Go to an Olympic Event
  13. Go on a cruise down the Nile River
  14. Hang Glide
  15. Go on an Alaskan cruise
  16. Go to an auction at Christies or Sotheby
  17. Go somewhere with zero gravity
  18. Go on a Safari
  19. Stay in an over-the-water bungalow on a tropical island
  20. Be in a flash mob
  21. Break a world record
  22. Go on a yoga retreat
  23. Visit all 50 US states

Another great way to get inspired is by using Pinterest. There are some amazing bucket list boards you can peruse:

bucket list, Pinterest

 

Share your first 3 bucket list items with me right NOW! click to tweet   

Step 3: Time List

Next it’s time to break-up your list by time. This is crucial because otherwise your bucket list could languish in your computer or desk drawer without ever getting done because it feels too long and overwhelming. You are going to look at all of the items on your list and figure out if they are short-term, long-term or special term. Here are the categories you can consider using:

  • Summer Bucket List: Are there items you think you can get done this summer or next? For example, this summer I hope to go berry picking at a local farm, paint a Jacopo Dal Ponte picture, learn how to grow tomatoes, eat at all of the PDX Eater restaurants and design a dress.
  • 20s / 30s /40s Bucket List: What do you want to achieve before you hit your next birthday milestone? I just turned 30 and wrote a whole list of lessons I learned in my 20s. Now I am working on my 30s bucket list!
  • City Bucket List: Are you living in a city temporarily or new to a place? What do you want to achieve in your location? My husband and I urban nomaded for 2 years taste-testing different cities around the world for 1 to 3 months each. We had bucket lists for each location and it was an amazing way to see each place!
  • College / High School / Certification Bucket List: What do you want to get done before you are done with school? Perhaps you are in a temporary job or certification program? What do you want to achieve?
  • 2015 / 2016 / 2017 Bucket List: You can also break your bucket list into years. This is great to think about along with resolutions and goals. However, don’t wait until the end of the year to do this! For big bucket list items like travel or learning, you often have to save up money, book flights or coordinate plans more than a year in advance. So, think about your next year bucket list right now to start to prepare.

Step 4: Share and Compare

Now you should have a pretty good bucket list going with some possible time brackets. The next step is to share and compare your bucket list with the important people in your life. You can and should share your bucket list(s) with your spouse, partner, parent, best friend, roommate, siblings, teachers–anyone who might be able to help or join you on your quests. Why do you need to share it?

  • Teamwork: There is nothing better than being able to check-off bucket list items together with a friend or partner! It makes it so much easier (and fun) to have a partner in joy.
  • Buy-In: Your partner or spouse needs to support (and possibly join) you as you complete your bucket list. Sharing it and comparing notes is a great way to do your bucket lists as a team.
  • Accountability: Sometimes happiness and fun things get pushed aside when stress and work come up. When you share your list with people in your life, they ask you about it, they ask to hear updates and they give you accountability. The more people you tell the more likely it is to get done.
  • Interesting: I talk a lot on this blog about being anti-boring. I believe that having and working on your bucket list is one of the most interesting things to talk about with new acquaintances. Use your bucket list as the ultimate conversation starter to build fast relationships!

Tweet me!

what word best describes

Step 5: Partner in Joy

You don’t have to do this, but after sharing and comparing you might want to consider asking someone to be your bucket list buddy, your partner in joy or your to-do list teammate ( I love coming up with fun titles). You don’t have to do your entire list with someone, but you can have certain items shared with someone else. For example, it is helpful to have similar items to spouses or travel buddies so you can do things together. I would highly recommend trying to partner up for the bigger costly activities to split expenses and get accountability in planning.

Step 6: TOP Three

Creating your bucket list is almost as fun as completing your bucket list! Now it’s time to turn some of those dreams into reality. it can be overwhelming to look at your long list and think about how and when you will complete them all–don’t worry this is the BEST problem to have. I want you to pick 3 items to work on planning. Yup, just 3 right now. More than that and it becomes too much to think about. Here’s how to pick the TOP Three:

  • What excites you most? Scan your list and take note of the items that give you a little rush or when you think of them your blood starts to pump.
  • What has a time limit? Is there anything that you need to do soon because of a time limit? For example, I want to go berry picking this summer and berries are only in-season for a few weeks so I need to get that on the calendar!

Once you pick your 3, it’s time to start the first steps of planning. Basically:

  • Who: Are you flying solo or do you need a partner in joy to join?
  • When: When does this need to happen? What time of day? Weekend or weekday? Get specific!
  • Where: Where do you need to go and how do you get there? Do you need to book transport ahead of time like a ticket or car?
  • How: How do you complete this item? How much money do you need to save up?
  • (Most Important) What: What do you need to do to make this happen? What is your very first step? Now do it.

This list will help you complete every single bucket list item. You can also use an online tool like: BucketList.Org or a to-do list software like Evernote or Asana.

Let me give you an example of one of my top three goals I am working on right now.

Break a World Record:

My friends Chris Guillebeau and Tyler Tervooren break a world record every summer before World Domination Summit (yes, I am speaking there this year!). I decided I HAD to join this year. Therefore, timing pushed this bucket list item into my Top Three.

  • Who: This year’s world record attempt is to have the largest breakfast in bed EVER! I have a bed with 4 spaces and so I need 3 adventurous friends to join. I just sent out invites!
  • When: This is slotted for Friday, July 10th at 8:30am.
  • Where: It’s right in downtown Portland and I am going to try to take an Uber down to save on parking.
  • How: I purchased my tickets and got my confirmation. Now I just have to show up with three friends!
  • (Most Important) What: I need to confirm my 3 bed co-partners and show up ready to break a world record!

What are your top 3? Tell me! click to tweet   

Step 7: Celebrate Completion

Once you have completed a bucket list item the joy is not complete! The happiness and pride that comes from completing a massive bucket list item keeps giving and giving–if you honor it. Don’t let finished bucket list items dance off into the sunset or slip into the corners of your memory. Here are some ideas about how to honor your completed items:

  • Create a completed bucket list journal or list. This is great for memories and helps you catalogue the good feelings that came from each experience.
  • Start a blog, Instagram or Pinterest with pictures and videos of your completed bucket list items–great to inspire your kids one day!
  • Build a board, wall or photo album in your home that you can see and share with people about your bucket list items.
  • Collect items or keepsakes from each experience and display them on a shelf in your house or office–talk about great conversation starters. (See all of our Killer Conversation Starters)

Every time you see this document, blog, wall or shelf it will remind you of all the happy memories. Here are some of my favorite completed bucket list items I celebrate:

  • Go on a seaplane
  • Learn to play poker
  • Ride a camel
  • Learn aerial ballet
  • Publish a book
  • Go on a zipline
  • Have a snow fight

Step 8: Thematic Lists

One last question I get a lot about bucket lists:

Do I combine work and play bucket lists?

This brings me to the idea of a themed bucket list. You are welcome to combine your lists but I find that combining work and personal goals can be a little confusing. Work bucket lists are more like goals. I recommend having thematic bucket lists that you work off of. For example a work bucket list might have:

  • Hit __ sales goal
  • Publish a book
  • Start a website
  • Read ___ book
  • Attend ___ conference
  • Complete an MBA

You also might have a family bucket list. This is another kind of themed bucket list you could do with your kids. Like:

  • Go to Disneyland
  • Make a pie together from scratch
  • Teach my daughter how to fish
  • Go on a road trip to Yellowstone
  • Go to the batting cages

You could even have a romance bucket list to do with your partner or spouse. Like:

  • Cook a meal together
  • Have a picnic in our local park
  • Hike to a waterfall
  • Kiss in the rain
  • Take a dance class

These theme lists are fun to put together and do together! Same Who, What, When, Where and How lists apply to help you execute on them.

Step 9: Never-Ending

This might sound odd, but the goal of your bucket list is not to finish it. It’s to keep it growing. The best lists are constantly changing–you are adding items and checking off items you have completed. Keep the never-ending bucket list mentality to live a regret-free life. See the world through the lens bucket list–what do I want to do in my lifetime? What can I savor and celebrate once I have completed an item?

Bonus: The Power of Happiness

Do you know what makes you happy? Science has a lot to tell us about how our happiness works. I want to teach you the science and psychology of happiness:

  • Wake-up excited
  • How to prevent funks and mood swings
  • Leverage your unique talents and skills that drive you
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About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a published author and behavioral investigator. She is a Huffington Post columnist and her courses and research has been featured on CNN, Forbes, Business Week and the Wall Street Journal. As a published Penguin author, Vanessa regularly speaks and appears in the media to talk about her research. She is a sought after consultant and speaker.


13 Comments


    1. Danielle McRae

      Thanks for reading, Ritu! I bet Israel was amazing. That’s on my list!

      Danielle | Science of People Team

  1. Nienke Krook

    I always love adding things to my own bucket list (I have one about travel on my own website), but reading them from other people inspires me as well! Thanks for sharing this one!

  2. Sarah

    I wish. I’d have to save for years to do one thing! I used to be so optimistic but having to save for months and months (more like a year) just to finally afford a car and that will take us into 2017 we will never get anywhere… Oh to rent a jet ski and lie on a beach.. maybe when I’m 50 lol loving all your pics though you’ve lived your life amazingly 🙂

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  4. Shelly

    Hi Vanessa!
    Can’t believe I missed this post last year! These are great tips. I do most of them and find them very effective, especially prioritizing my top list items. We have many in common too. I’m planning on posting a resource page in the future, and this will definitely be included. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
    Shelly

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  8. Bren Murphy

    H Vanessa,
    I was inspired to write a bucket list after a friend’s diagnosis with tumors. Having a bucket list has been genuinely hard for me to write and I have confronted some things in my life that I struggled with. Now, I have some more clarity and focus so I can actually go do this and bring the changes to my life. Here goes…
    Thanks
    Bren

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